Washington State University

Revised 3-11
Reviewed 7-13
Environmental Health and Safety

Chemical Carcinogens in Laboratories

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Chemical carcinogens are substances that are either known to cause cancer in humans or animals or are suspected of being capable of causing cancer in humans. State and federal regulations require that departments that use chemical carcinogens establish specific controls and procedures to protect employees.

The controls and procedures may include:

The specific controls, procedures, and regulatory requirements are dependent on the carcinogen and the location or type of use, e.g., laboratory or nonlaboratory.

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) helps departments identify carcinogens and interpret applicable regulatory requirements. Laboratories must contact EH&S for assistance with developing specific controls and procedures to meet regulatory requirements and protect human health; telephone 335-3041.


Department Chair

The department chair is to ensure that this policy is implemented.

Principal Investigator/Supervisor

If carcinogens are used in laboratories, each principal investigator or supervisor is responsible for:

Process or equipment engineering design,
Administrative procedures, and
Personal protective equipment.

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)

EH&S is responsible for the following:


Employees working with chemicals are responsible for:


Carcinogens are defined as substances that are either known to cause cancer in humans or animals or are suspected of being capable of causing cancer in humans. Substances are classified as carcinogens based upon state and federal regulations.

Regulated Carcinogens

The state of Washington's Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) identifies the following carcinogens in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). The regulatory requirements do not apply to solid or liquid mixtures containing less than 0.1 percent by weight or volume of these carcinogens.

4-Nitrobiphenyl  Benzidine
Alpha-Naphthylamine 4-Aminodiphenyl
4,4'-Methylene bis (2-chloroaniline) Ethyleneimine
Methyl chloromethyl ether Beta-Propiolactone
3,3'-Dichlorobenzidine (and salts) 2-Acetylaminofluorene
Bis-Chloromethyl ether Beta-Naphthylamine
4-Dimethylaminoazobenzene N-Nitrosodimethylamine
Vinyl Chloride Ethylene Oxide
Acrylonitrile Cadmium
1,2-Dibromo-3 chloropropane Butadiene
Inorganic Arsenic Methylene Chloride

If employees are to perform tasks using any of the chemicals listed above, contact EH&S for information regarding the regulatory requirements for these carcinogens; telephone 335-3041.

Although a chemical may not be identified as a carcinogen by DOSH, additional standards may apply. There are several ways to determine whether or not a product is a carcinogen:

Review the chemical container label.

Check the product's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for hazard information (see 5.10).

View a list of known carcinogens such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC's) Monographs (latest editions) or the National Toxicology Program's (NTP's) Annual Report on Carcinogens (latest edition).


If there is evidence that a chemical may be a carcinogen, contact EH&S regarding what is required for regulatory compliance; telephone 509-335-3041.